By Austin Yang
He’s offensive, he’s irreverent, and he…can now buy liquor!
The time has come for award-winning writer, composer, and performer Billy Recce to begin shedding the greatest novelty of his persona: His youth.
That’s right, folks: Recce, already a veteran after penning and playing multiple musicals and songs, is just now (if not finally) turning 21.
And for his birthday, to no one’s surprise, he threw a concert at The Green Room 42! Thus on the night of Dec 14, 2018, the renowned supper club was home to a medley of Recce’s greatest hits throughout the years.
Recce’s work needs no appraisal: His catchy, uproarious, and well-structured songwriting betrays technical, musical, and topical acuteness remarkable in anyone, regardless of age.
The “Snowflake” songster is again backed, of course, by a well-assembled band, as well as his thick address book of talented performers, both of which include many of his fellow students in Fordham University’s theatre program.
And if anything, it was a party. After being briefly introduced, Recce himself strode to his comfort zone at the piano, and, cutting right to the chase, counted in the band. The audience, a diverse group of his fans and family, enthusiastically welcomed his recent hit, “Unironic Love Song.” Recce’s onstage persona is as sharp and witty as his songs, but definitely in a more relaxed manner that evening; when he spoke into the mic between songs, it was in a crooner’s affable softness. As a performer, he is a competent vocalist, but where he really shines is on keys. He grooves comfortably in the familiarity of his own work, and evidently delights in the performers that bring it to life.
Amidst a stunning and impressive set, there are a few standouts. Most of them, well within Recce’s circles and familiar with his repertoire, brought something new to their pieces, shaking off the dust from previous recitals. Laura Laureano and Lindsay Nicole Chambers, clearly veterans of the stage, belted flawlessly on “Step Number One” and “Wet,” respectively. Roger Dawley and Tyler Renhart, bouncing back and forth effortlessly on Recce’s perennial hit “Pain,” are now my favorite example of a solo piece sung as a duet. Forest Van Dyke, staunch as his song, gave an arresting rendition of “The Cobblestone Streets Of Manhattan” with buttery vocals. Elizabeth Kline took on the anthemic “Go Into Finance,” and—to my great delight—more than holds her own among the many that have tackled it. Hers was a more robust and less recitative take compared to, say, Rachel Ravel’s. Maddy Baker, too, delivered “And In Between” with unshakable charm and energy. And Billy sang his own “Justin Bieber Lizard Man” and “Be Kind To The Kid In The Trench Coat” in his more charismatic moments of the evening, even bringing his mother for backup vocals.
My favorite of the evening, however, had to be Sarah Rachel Lazarus’s “Milan.” I may have missed my chance to see the The Charlatans, but if Lazarus was any bit as powerful and evocative in it as she was that evening, it must have made for one hell of a star turn. Recce knows how to write for her voice, for her performative abilities, and to bring out the best in her. It doesn’t surprise me that a creative relationship between the two has and will continue to be abundantly fruitful.
On a side note, special shout-out to Ashley Everhart for the wonderful sax solos.
It was also a party in the sense that the atmosphere was fairly casual. This driven by the softly-spoken demeanor of its eponymous host, of course, but also from (with a few exceptions) the somewhat underrehearsed nature of the performances. I liked it: It detracted nothing from the show, but was conducive to the fact that the audience was in fact there for “Billy Recce Turns 21,” a birthday extravaganza, but still a birthday, which Recce chose to spend in his domain of the stage, surrounded by loved ones.
Happy birthday, Billy Recce. You’re only getting started, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
BILLY RECCE TURNS 21 at The Green Room 42 – December 14th, 2018
Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Forest Van Dyke, Laura Laureano, Roger Dawley, Tyler Lenhart, Sarah Rachel Lazarus, Rachel Ravel, Victoria Duffy, Elizabeth Kline, David Wilson, Jordana Kagan, Ryan Koerber
Adam Mastrocola – Drums, Sean Cortese – Bass, Ashley Everhart – Sax, David Moses – Violin/Percussion, Dean Tierney – Guitar